It comes as no surprise that Mother Nature has played a huge role in what New York farmers have had to overcome this 2017 spring and early summer.
The struggle has not been an easy one for any farmer, including young farmers Morgan Behnke and Cyrus Conard at Ridgedale Dairy, Ames, NY.
The third generation farmers are raising their family, including new addition son Liam, on the established dairy, where even the bull caves are kept for future use.
“We raise every bull calf born on the farm,” reported Morgan. Morgan said bull calves are sold for breeding, locally, interstate, and, literally, from coast to coast.
This is because Ridgedale’s young stock comes from highly graded Holsteins.
“We classify regularly and still market and sell embryos nationally and internationally,” Cyrus remarked. “We currently have four cows scored 95 or higher; two at 95 and two at 96.”
But even having great genetics doesn’t help when Mother Nature strikes out viciously as she has this year.
“We have been keeping cows indoors more often to prevent injury,” explained Conard. “And, with this kind of weather, everything is damp, whether you’re in the elements or not. So, we’ve also been using more bedding in an effort to keep animals comfortable and dry.”
Cyrus and Morgan keep an average of 65 cows on their end of the farm, while Cyrus’ dad, Wayne, and mom, Jen, now average around 35 milking on their end of the farm. The cows are presently kept in tie-stall barns.
Including the bull barn, Conards keep about 150 head of young stock.
“There are about 30 bulls in the bull barn,” said Conard. “At the home farm, where we live, there are about 15 calves on milk and 30 weaned calves in the intermediate barn. In addition, there are about 60 bred heifers.”
The remainder of the calves live up the road at Wayne and Jen’s.
Conard says a delay in planting crops and not being able to make hay on time, top the list of issues caused by the heavy spring and summer rains.
“We’re making the best of the hand we were dealt this year,” said Conard. “We were able to work some long days (and nights) to get the crops in. Not on time,” he admits. “But, we got them in!”
Crops planted this year include corn, soybeans, barley, oats and hay.
Generally, in a normal year, the farm plants 300 acres of corn, 120 acres of soybeans, 80 acres of small grain, and 400 acres of a hay mix with alfalfa and small grasses.
Although the farm carries crop insurance, they are hoping they will not have to tap into it this year.
“We are relying heavily on short season corn,” Conard remarked.
The farm has no new equipment to boast about.
“We farm with 30-plus year old tractors,” admits Canard. “The bulk of our machinery was built in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But we still use many of the tractors that my grandfather began farming with when he and my grandmother moved here from New Jersey in 1969.”
Conard says they have been making the most of the bad weather.
“We’ve been using the rainy days to fix equipment, work with cows, and catch up on general maintenance.”
Morgan and Cyrus met at an expo when Morgan was serving as the Wisconsin Holstein Princess.
“I grew up with the Midwest Spring Show and World Dairy Expo in my backyard,” Morgan said with a smile. “No matter where you are in the country, a cow show always feels like home.”
The young couple reconnected when Cyrus attended school at the University of Wisconsin.
“We are now anticipating our September wedding.”
While Cyrus works full time on the farm, Morgan, who graduated with a degree in graphic design and visual communications, now works for a full service marketing/design firm in Cooperstown, NY and freelance designs for farms across the country, creating show collateral, banners, logos, signage and advertisements.
“As a graphic designer I have a special appreciation for the rapid evolution of the way dairy cattle are marketed and advertised via media outlets, social media, and print collateral,” said Morgan.
Conard’s herd average for production is 22,000 lbs., with 4.0 percent fat, and 3.1 percent protein.
The farm’s highest producing cow for June 2017 was 147 lbs., 5-year old, Milksource Brxtn Acclaim-ET EX-94.